What to do:
Self-talk. Say to yourself, "I don't want my child to hurt someone else by calling her names, but I will keep calm while I teach her why and what else to do when she's angry."
Empathy. Tell yourself, "I can understand that my child calls people names when she's upset and doesn't know what else to do. I feel like doing that sometimes, too."
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn what to do to calm herself down and solve her problem when she is angry, instead of calling people names."
Practice empathy. When your child calls another child a name, ask the question: How would you feel if Jean called you a name? You wouldn't like it, right? Say, "We don't want to hurt another person, so we don't call them names, even if we are mad." When you are angry, it's important to tell a teacher or other adult that you are upset and tell them why. They can help you cope with your feelings without name-calling."
Teach Your Child to Apologize and Use Grandma's Rule. Say to your child, "I know that you are frustrated, but you need to tell your friend that you are sorry." Learning to apologize gives your child practice in seeing things from another's point of view and encourages getting along with others.
Asking your child to apologize for calling people names also guides her to feel empathy for the person she offended. Use Grandma's Rule by saying "When you have told your friend how sorry you are for calling him a name, then you may go back to your play."
Teach What Words and Names Are Appropriate and Inappropriate to Use. Make sure you've educated your child about using hurtful words and names before expecting her to know what they are. For example, even though she may hear her friends at preschool, childcare, school or on any electronic device calling someone "stupid", your rule is that calling people hurtful names like "stupid" or telling them to "shut up" is not acceptable.
Teach How to Self-Calm. Say to your child, "When you want to call someone a name to let her know she hurt you or to put them down, say 'Stop' and then count to ten. That will help you calm down, so you can cool off and think better. Then you can talk with your teacher or me about how to feel better about the situation that caused you to feel angry." Practice this routine in a neutral calm time to role-play how it works together.
Take your Child to Calm Time. Remove your child from the fun she's having for a specific length of time by saying to her that when she calls people names, or belittles, teases, or insults them, she loses her chance to play. Say, "I'm sorry you called Anna a (hurtful name)_____. I'm taking you to Calm Time so you can think about how to get along." Set your phone timer for one minute for each year of your child's age and talk with her, when Calm Time's over, about playing without name-calling. When she is calm, she can rejoin the play activity.
Teach How to Respond to Being a Name-Calling Victim. Say, "When your friend calls you a mean name, tell her that you can't play with her when she calls you names." Encourage your child to talk with you if she is a victim of name calling, so you can help her learn how to cope with her hurt feelings and understand that the person who calls her the name has the problem and needs help. She doesn't have to have an emotional reaction to what is said to her. She needs to sit back and observe things. Others' words cannot control us.
Notice Nice Talk. Praise your child's using kind, friendly words and not calling people hurtful names. Doing so shows her what language you do and don't approve of her using.
What not to do:
Don't Model Hurting Others. Calling a driver who cut you off a name, such as "Stupid!" will tell your child that it's okay to call people names when she's angry.
Don't Show How to Name-Call. When your child calls you a name, it's easy to shout back the same hurtful words she says to you, like, "You are so stupid! You should know better than to call names." Don't do the behavior you're trying to stop!
Don't Use Severe Punishment. If you punish for name-calling, your child will only call people names when you are not around, so she won't get in trouble. You want her to learn to treat people kindly-so treat her that way, too.
Don't Shame or Put Your Child Down. Shaming and using put-downs when you are angry with your child only teaches her to use those same words when she is angry. Remember to use positive self-talk to calm yourself before you respond to your child's behavior.